Seize the Day!

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. (Eccl. 9:7, ESV)

As mentioned previously, the verse above has become a favorite, along with its context (9:7-10a), and the whole book of Ecclesiastes. That’s not because I’m a good follower of “the Preacher’s” advice, but I aspire to be.

The word in bold above, “go,” is closely related to the Latin phrase carpe diem or seize the day. “The Preacher” could have started out saying “eat your bread with joy…” but adds “go” as if to say, “Seize the day! Do it now! This is the day that the Lord has made—rejoice and be glad!”

Carpe diem or seize the day means to “enjoy the present as opposed to placing all hope in the future.”[1]

At first glance the concept of carpe diem and this definition seem to run counter to Paul when he says, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Col. 3:2, KJV) In fact, for most of my young adulthood, I leaned on Paul’s words and ignored the puzzling message of Ecclesiastes. For me, life was something to be rigidly segmented into two categories: sacred (things above) and secular (things on earth). Further, I judged others who carried their faith with less intensity than I did. I certainly didn’t enjoy wine; in fact, most of the time, I didn’t enjoy anything. I loved God and followed him outwardly like a good Pharisee but internally I lived a caged existence of fear, anger, and resignation.

The wisdom of Ecclesiastes 9:7 remained buried behind the word “meaningless” and I didn’t really understand Paul either.

So, what do Paul’s words mean in light of Eccl. 9:7?

One of the principles of proper biblical interpretation is scripture interprets scripture. In other words, God gave us the sixty-six books (more if you’re Orthodox or Roman Catholic) and they’re all His holy word. Scripture interprets scripture means that Paul must inform “the Preacher” of Ecclesiastes, and vice versa.

Paul’s words in Col. 3:2 have to do with where our ultimate affections lie and warn us against idolatry. They tell us that, as we live out Eccl. 9:7 (and, yes, we should!), we need to receive all as a gift from our creator. We should never make food, drink, marriage, or anything a god.

“The Preacher’s” words in Eccl. 9:7 reminds us that God put us here on planet earth and it’s wrong to cheapen the existence He placed us in. They remind us that God’s purposes are alive here and now and permeate “things on the earth”—especially food, drink, community, marriage, and work. They also tell us that God takes pleasure in our joy: “for God has already approved of what you do.”

David Gibson, in his new commentary, adds these excellent observations:

“It’s vital to see that the eating, drinking, and loving in these verses do not form an exhaustive list of God’s gifts. Rather, it’s a representative list of what it means to love life and live it to the full. These things are a way of saying: when God made the world, he made it good, and no amount of being a Christian, being spiritual, ever changes the fact that God put you in a physical world with hands and food and drink and culture and relationships and beauty. Sin fractures everything, distorts everything. It means we cannot understand everything. But sin does not uncreate everything. So, if we tap into the Preacher’s worldview and train or thought, I think an expanded list would look something like this:

Ride a bike, see the Grand Canyon, go to a theater, learn to make music, visit the sick, care for the dying, cook a meal, feed the hungry, watch a film, read a book, laugh with some friends until it makes you cry, play football, run a marathon, snorkel in the ocean, listen to Mozart, ring your parents, write a letter, play with your kids, spend your money, learn a language, plant a church, start a school, speak about Christ, travel to somewhere you’ve never been, adopt a child, give away your fortune and then some, shape someone’s life by laying down your own.”[2]

So, what about you? Is it time to make your expanded list? Consider writing down and personalizing your own. More importantly, is it time to live out your list?

Go!  Seize the day! Do it now! Make the most of this new year and receive it as a gift!

 

[1] Dictionary.com

[2] David Gibson, Living Life Backward (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 114.


Carpenter | Theologian (cover photo by Ken Larter)